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President Tsai's video address to the 101st American Legion National Convention
President Tsai's video address to the 101st American Legion National Convention

President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a major speech via video before the 101st American Legion National Convention on the afternoon of August 27 Indiana time (early morning of August 28 Taipei time).

The annual convention was held at the American Legion national headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, and invited international friends from Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Korea and other countries to deliver remarks. Distinguished guests included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad, and Taiwan's Veterans Affairs Commission Deputy Minister Lee Wen-chung (李文忠).

The following is a transcript of the president's speech:

It is an honor to address America's largest and one of its most prestigious veteran's organizations. I want to thank National Commander Brett Reistad for his invitation and staunch support for Taiwan – support that is rooted in our shared ideals of freedom and democracy.

While I cannot be here in person, I want to congratulate the American Legion on this important anniversary, as you commemorate a century of service to freedom around the world.

Over the past hundred years, American soldiers have fought and sacrificed to preserve the universal values we hold dear: the belief that we are born free, society should be just, and power should be placed in the hands of the people.

From the battlefields of Europe to the islands of the Pacific, millions of American soldiers have bravely honored those principles. With every sacrifice made, the world inched towards a more just future.

And because of these efforts, countries were able to throw off the yoke of oppression, and were given the freedom to join the community of free societies.

Last December, Brett led a delegation from the American Legion to Taiwan. We discussed our shared interest in protecting liberty in the Asia Pacific, in the hope that we never again have to settle our differences through war. We also exchanged views on how we can take better care of our veterans, to honor their selfless service to our countries.

As I said to Brett then, and I'll say again now: the best way to ensure peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region is to preserve the strong relationship Taiwan and the United States enjoy today, and to remain resolute in our defense of freedom and democracy.

As we all know too well, the struggle for domination and control has played out throughout human history, even though it has taken on new forms.

Today, just across the Taiwan Strait, we struggle with a giant that has chosen to use new tools of technological advancement not for the greater good, but to sow disinformation, division, and discord in free and open societies.

As I have said again and again, Taiwan will never succumb to this pressure. Not on my watch. But we cannot face this challenge alone. We need reinforcement from the global community of like-minded countries.

Fortunately, thanks to support from organizations such as the American Legion, the relationship between Taiwan and the United States is stronger than ever. And we have seen a number of significant developments over the past year.

We commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, a piece of legislation that has assured the people of Taiwan that the United States will always stand by our side. As Ronald Reagan once said: “We keep our promises to Taiwan. Period.”

We celebrated the formal opening of the new AIT compound, the U.S. representative building in Taipei, which signifies the multitude of interests our countries share.

We acknowledged enduring bipartisan support from Congress, exemplified through Taiwan's inclusion in legislation such as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act and the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. This follows the passage of the Taiwan Travel Act in 2018.

We marked the continued sale of important defensive arms to Taiwan, showcasing our commitment towards our own defense, and the security of the Asia Pacific region as a whole.

And on this note, I'm pleased to share with you that last week, the U.S. government formally agreed to sell 66 new F-16Vs to Taiwan, following recent sales of new M1A2 tanks and missile capabilities.

These latest sales mean that our men and women in uniform will soon be driving M1A2s to protect our beaches, and piloting F-16Vs across our skies.

I want to be clear: we don't purchase military hardware because we pursue conflict. We do so because we know, as you do, that power only responds to strength.

As we face Chinese fighter planes that barrel across the center line of the Taiwan Strait and cut through our air space, we cannot afford to be naïve about their intentions. We cannot deter aggression if we are not prepared to protect ourselves. We must show that we are firmly resolved to defend our freedom, democracy, and way of life.

The determination to stand up for our values and beliefs – no matter the odds – is what truly defines our two countries.

As Vice President Mike Pence stated, in words that resonated across the region: “America will always believe that Taiwan's embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people.”

The relationship between Taiwan and the United States is also strengthened by robust civil exchanges, such as our longstanding friendship with the American Legion.

Many would be surprised to learn that our bond with the Legion dates back almost half a century, when we first sought advice from the Legion on how to improve veteran care. More recently, the Legion has graciously welcomed our presence at its national conventions, and national commanders have continued to visit Taiwan.

One issue that came up in our conversation last year in Taiwan was how this relationship leads to substantive results, and how we trade best practices when it comes to providing access to quality healthcare, better jobs, and more dignified long-term care. We discussed ways Taiwan can learn from the Legion's job training and support workshops, while sharing our expertise in providing high quality healthcare at an affordable cost.

Following our dialogue, we are looking into the possibility of sending a veterans' affairs representative to the U.S., so that we can follow up on these initiatives.

Furthermore, we will be looking for ways to facilitate exchanges in veterans' healthcare, encouraging more personnel from our veterans' hospitals to visit the U.S.

I know that in small towns and rural communities across America, even if there is no grocery store to be found, you can often find one building emblazoned with the words: American Legion. As a student in the small town of Ithaca in upstate New York, I used to pass by these buildings regularly, wondering what went on inside those unassuming offices.

Today, I recognize that the full scope of the Legion's work encompasses not only supporting veterans and communities across America, but also serving as a force for peace and stability around the world.

The service members the Legion represents – all of you seated here today – recognize the sacrifices that have been made in defense of freedom and democracy around the world. All of you know, as do we, that we must continue to be vigilant, that we can never take our liberty for granted.

The best way to honor these past sacrifices is to do everything we can to avoid future conflict, without ever compromising our core beliefs.

As the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I share in this pursuit with all of you. We will not pursue conflict with China, but we ask that they respect our democracy. We will not intentionally provoke China, but neither will we be naïve to China's true intentions.

We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the United States, and other like-minded countries around the world, in the interests of preserving the peace that has served our region so well for decades.

Today, I want to thank the American Legion and all of its members for your lifelong devotion to our shared principles and values.

Your service towards the preservation of liberty resonates around the world.

I also want to offer my congratulations on your 100th anniversary. I wish you a very successful national convention, and look forward to working even more closely with you all in the future.

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